Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Literature Teeters on the Edge of a 'Gr8 Fall'

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the sh4k3sp34r-w45-1337 dept.

Education 459

aicrules writes "Yahoo news is reporting that the great works of literature often read and discussed by the brighter of our up-and-comers could be the latest victim of reaching the lowest common denominator at the potential expense of everyone. The article describes the efforts of Dot Mobile to make such literary masterpieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet more accessible. From the article, 'We are confident that our version of 'text' books will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,'"

cancel ×


Teeters on the edge? (5, Funny)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046061)

And this mindlessness is exactly the sort of thing that will push it over...

Here's a message for them: Lrn2RdFlBks. UGtMrFrmIt.

It's done in music already. (2, Insightful)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046229)

``Fake'' books of jazz and pop tunes with dumb chords substituted, simplified classical pieces that are easier to play, etc.

If you can have a dumbed-down Bach or Beethoven as a ring tone on your phone, why not a dumbed down Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky on your bookshelf? :)

Re:It's done in music already. (5, Informative)

lxt (724570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046317)

Why dont you actually learn what a fake book is before commenting? A proper fake book takes *skill* to play well. You don't get the "dumb chords" fact, all you're given is the melody line - a single tune, along with chords in text running along the top. It's up to you, the (typically piano) player to improvise the accompianment, harmony, vamps, and the like. There's a pretty big difference between a proper jazz fake book and the dumbed down classical books you're describing - nobody actually wrote down many of the jazz tunes in the fake books properly, and they're often carefully (and it used to be illegally) transcriped and published by jazz players.

Re:It's done in music already. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046327)

I totally agree with your sentiment. However, it should be noted that not all "fake books" are dumbed down versions. They generally contain jazz standards, which require full skills to read and play.

Re:It's done in music already. (5, Funny)

mopslik (688435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046360)

...why not a dumbed down Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky on your bookshelf?

I guess Dostoevsky's The Idiot will be appropriately titled.

Re:Teeters on the edge? (4, Funny)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046284)

Lrn2RdFlBks. UGtMrFrmIt

"Learn to read, fullbacks"? I hardly think it's fair to blame college sports.

The article certainly teeters... (4, Funny)

sczimme (603413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046287)

From the Fine Article (and the summary):

'We are confident that our version of 'text' books will... raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy"

Wow, that's good news. I was afraid they would raise the standards down.

Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (5, Insightful)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046066)

People have been condensing things like this for humor for years. Ophelia's last line: "Glub!" And remember the story about consensing the Lord's Prayer into a text message? (I think it had lines like "God, UR GR8")

So we take something that's been used for humor, and use it for Cliffs Notes instead. Big whoop. No one is going to think that the summaries are the original works. I mean, anyone who has taken a logic class has come up with "2B v ~2B"

Although it does remind me of the time in high school when we were reading Romeo and Juliet aloud in class. I read Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech, got through the whole thing, then looked at the footnotes, and had the reaction, "I said what?!?!?" (From then on, I read the footnotes with the text, not afterward.)

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046151)

The only way I got through the Bard's plays were Cliff's Notes.

The Cliff Notes were usually longer than the play itself, but you could follow the cliff notes.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (4, Funny)

bman08 (239376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046187)

I first read MacBeth as a comic book. Then I saw the porno version. By the time I got around to the real play, I had a foundation to follow the non-x-rated action.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046311)

Can you point me towards the porn version?

Thanks, eh.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046231)

...Shakespeare was not difficult to follow. Dostoevsky fucked me over, though. I could never remember who was who. I often wondered why Russians only had about 4 possible first names to choose from and 4 possible last names, for a grand total of 64 possible combinations. All of which were used in Crime and Punishment, and almost none of which more than twice.

Then again, that was about 6 years ago, and I haven't bothered to read it since, and I'm also exaggerating, but still. Shakespeare was not difficult to follow. And I'm sure there are even more difficult books to follow than Crime and Punishment.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046306)

how embarassing. it's 16 possible names. wow. I think my statistics professor just exploded.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046335)

Not to mention the way each character has half a dozen nicknames, depending on who is addressing him.

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046354)

"Crime and Punishment", if memory serves, is much easier in terms of names to track than "Anna Karenina" -- where there are formal names, the patronomics, and some Westernized nicknames in addition to the assorted family relationships that might be used to refer to the characters. I don't remember off-hand whether aristocratic titles were also used, but it wouldn't surprise me too much. Time to break out the index cards and draw family trees...

Re:Remember Hamlet in 15 minutes? (5, Funny)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046277)

Surely it's
if ( $question = ( 2B || !(2B) ) ) {
if ($mind[SlingsArrows] > $mind[TakeArms]) {

OMFG!!! (4, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046068)

The article describes the efforts of Dot Mobile to make such literary masterpieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet more accessible.

Perhaps Professor Sutherland ought to check out the following links:

Romeo & Juliet []
Hamlet []

Kudos to Chris Coutts...they're still damned funny, although the idea of Professor Sutherland pitching this sort of thing for real is just ludicrous. As the epitath on the Bard's tombstone reads:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Does this mean that Professor Sutherland is cursed, since he's caused Shakespeare's corpse to spin at such a rapid rate? ^_^

SCOTT CROSBY IS G4Y!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046123)

That is all I wanted to say.

Re:OMFG!!! (1)

Inkieminstrel (812132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046175)

why r u a montague thats sucks

Garbage in Garbage Out (1, Insightful)

under_score (65824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046070)

Need I say more?

You should have said less... (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046110)


Re:Garbage in Garbage Out (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046133)

It's better than nothing.

Re:Garbage in Garbage Out (1)

under_score (65824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046244)

No it's not. At least with nothing there is a chance that a person will know there is something missing. With this, we run the risk that people will think, "Oh! I already know this story. No point in reading it now."

Re:Garbage in Garbage Out (4, Insightful)

under_score (65824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046209)

Okay, maybe I will say more.

I've only read a very small sampling of great literature. A bit of Charles Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Leo Tolstoy, and a few others. I can't claim to be well-read in this regard.

However, the little that I have read has had substantial benefit to me. I have been exposed to life circumstances, themes, thoughts, philosophies in a depth that has expanded my ability to see outside my own limited experiences, empathize and sympathize with other people, see the possibility that I might be wrong or prejudiced. As well, my use of language has improved in terms of vocabulary, style and metaphor.

There is no way that anyone can convince me that simplifying and making this literature "more accessible" is in any way beneficial except in the most limited fact-retention sense. Knowing the facts of a plot comes nowhere close to experiencing the expression of those facts in a sublime piece of literature.

That said, I appreciate the sentiment. I think there is a lot of legitimate concern that students do not get exposed to these sorts of literary works. However, this approach is at best a bandaid over a minor symptom of a much deeper problem. How much better would it be to address the real problems of the quality of our education and child-raising? I'm not saying that I know the real solution... that is beyond me... but I can see when something is missing the mark, and possibly harmful.

I Am Absolutely Bereft Of Gorm (2, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046225)

Reminds me of the a UserFriendly series from last December:

joined channel #unixgurus []

sid060> did you know that the abbreviations you and your "homeys" use are codes from the mainframe days?
Rayn3> what do u mean?
sid060> Well... I don't know if I should tell...
Rayn3> u have 2. give an example.
sid060> Okay. "how r u" is code for "I am absolutely bereft of gorm."
Rayn3> r u seri^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H

Re:Garbage in Garbage Out (1)

vought (160908) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046315)

We are confident that our version of 'text' books will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes,

Because the real reason anyone reads Shakespeare is for the plot. For fuck's sake.

and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,

As opposed to "raise down educational standards"*. This fellow's command of English was clearly enhanced by his close call with Shakepeare's work.

How nice that these works are being rewritten for the attention deficit set.

*Hint: When you write or say "raise" you don't need to include the word "up". Nor does anyone truly need to "utilise"anything that can simply be used. That's superfluous language, and it makes communication more difficult, not less.

r0m30, r0m30 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046071)

wtf wallhax0r cl4n?

Re:r0m30, r0m30 (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046266)

Don't U mean:
Were 4 art th0w r0m30?

waz it r0m30 or jool337 that drank the p0|50N?

I'm also confident (1)

external400kdiskette (930221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046077)

that your bastardized versions of literature classics will genuinely ensure thousands of potential intellectuals become pillars of society's caste of illiterate yokels.

Re:I'm also confident (1)

Dr Reducto (665121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046104)

mebe it wuddintt b so fukked if u stopd kamping f4g!

I predict (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046079)

the net impact of this will be nil. What person who was going to read some classic piece of literature is going to forego that experience after checking out the text message summary?
And who will go read the real thing after getting one of these?
In fact I also will go out on a limb and predict that this marketing ploy by the cell phone company will fail. Kids will not want these phones and that will greatly overwhelm the couple idiot parents who might think this would be a good idea.

Re:I predict (3, Insightful)

Pope (17780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046176)

While the overall result will probably be nil, I still think we shouldn't encourage this type of bullshit to start with.

Reworking great literature for the retard/ADD set is not something I'd consider groundbreaking or necessary.

Re:I predict (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046241)

I don't think it will be encouraged by anyone outside of the company trying to profit from it. This is purely a marketing strategy and I think it will fall flat on its face. The only success it may see is creating a little buzz- like right now.

Re:I predict (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046286)

I don't think this particular project is about making the kids read these books. Rather than promote reading literary classics, what it seems to be about is familiarizing the kids with some of the central memes of the culture is built on. The kids might never read "Romeo and Juliet", but at least they'll recognize the basic plot when they happen to see a movie based on it. Or if an angsty teenage girl tells an angsty teenage boy that they're "just like Romeo and Juliet", then the boy will at least know that the world is so fucked up that they're better off committing suicide.

Ebonics anyone? (1, Insightful)

cc-rider-Texas (877967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046091)

From the article: "To be or not to be" soliloquy is rendered: "2B? NT2B?=???".
So are they following in that ridiculous "ubonics" tradition and further degrading the English language or what?

Re:Ebonics anyone? (1)

bbsguru (586178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046204)

It's just another language translation.

Accessible to the masses, and all that.

With regard to Ebonics; at the height of that idiocy, we proposed federal funding for our local Bovonics outreach. You see, Timmy, here in Dairy country, all the kids measure time by the number of Milkings. Everyone loves to go to the Moooovies. Every workplace has a Bossie.

If this worked as an enticement to literacy, I would be in favor (anything for literacy, right?).

It won't. It's lunacy to think it would. Companies that spend a nickel on such a thing should be sold short in every market, yesterday.

There is NO demand for this, so it will die quickly, only to become a footnote in the Wikipedia of the Absurd.

Re:Ebonics anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046235)

yo homes don' be tha playa hatah or i's be bustin' them caps on ya ass

Re:Ebonics anyone? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046269)

Lest we forget...Shakespeare's works were written using extremely colloquial language...the Middle Age equivalent of "Ebonics" at that time. You read Shakespeare for the ideas behind stories, not as a shining example of proper 1500's/1600's English, of which it is not.

Re:Ebonics anyone? (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046333)

So are they following in that ridiculous "ubonics" tradition and further degrading the English language or what?

Ebonics was a social failure because of two things: it tried to artificially change language and it was rather racist. This will fail for mainly just the first reason.

Language oddities used with text messages or "elite" speek are often said to be bastardizations for the English language. Well, how do you suppose the English language come about? Magic?

Languages evolve; sometimes rather quickly. This fact is easily seen by how hard it is for teenagers to grasp the meaning of Shakespeare, Beowulf, etc. These works provide a slice of literary history. They are studied not just for their content, but for their grammatical structure as well. Modern literature is no less valid because it uses more modern English (Ulysses, Kubla Kahn, etc). Grammer, punctuation, spelling, etc. are all artificial means of measurement. Language is too fluid to measured for any time longer than an instant. The idea that a language can degraded is ludicrous. If languages didn't "degrade" everyone on the planet would speak in a series of grunts and hand gestures. Languages evolve; deal with it.

Classics (0)

CashCarSTAR (548853) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046094)

"Yahoo news is reporting that the great works of literature often read and discussed by the brighter of our up-and-comers"

Why does it always have to be the same books that are read by people? I mean..we're just limiting our range of expression here. Maybe our society would be a bit better off instead of mentally choking the chicken the brightest of our bright discussed things that say coming up with alternative fuel sources or fixing the economy.

Wow do I sound like one of those anti-TV coots there :). But I do believe that. We put far too much devotion into the "classics' and developing our "canon recognition", and not enough time into actual thinking up new and interesting ideas.

Re:Classics (2, Insightful)

SiO2 (124860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046190)

Okay. I'll bite.

We can't have progress without a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to build.


Re:Classics (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046283)

We put far too much devotion into the "classics' and developing our "canon recognition", and not enough time into actual thinking up new and interesting ideas.

Because "the classics", if not actually defining our culture, give us a common foundation on which to build a shared cultural experience.

Did a dead semi-anonymous 16th century hack pop-poet/playwright really create the best-ever-and-always set of English writings? Of course not! He wrote the equivalent of "Seinfeld" for the televidiots of his day. But like it or not, that does give us a certain common ground on which to relate to one another socially. We like "lowbrow" humor. We prefer the good guy to win. We want blood and guts and gore and veins in our teeth. We enjoy Moe getting poked in the eyes by Larry. We want to see the queen kiss a Federline, everyone to tragically die at the end, and the servants to get away with a good practical joke on their bosses.

Now, based on the above, does it commit some grievous sin to "translate" the works of this ancient hack into a more modern form? To that, I would say no, with a qualification - One can modernize without butchering. Converting Hamlet to the style of texting fails to make the work more accessible, instead tailoring it to a very niche subculture of rebellion-without-a-clue (and likely a short-lived subculture at that, as it only even exists as the fleeting intersection of a technological limitation with an economic convenience).

Learn from the times man. (5, Interesting)

Romancer (19668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046105)

Make them into games.

Can you imagine a more violent game than Romeo and Juliet?
Two gang waring mafia type families and a plot where the two main characters die?

Have the full text and add a game requirement that you have to talk to people with the accent and all. actually walk up to people and ask them questions and make statements that forward the game, rather than the standard now where you just button mash to get through the plot and power up.

Mix the two areas, good games need good plot, and good books need to be read by later generations.

mod up, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046223)

Mod up interesting, please.

of course! (3, Funny)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046109)

"brevity is... wit." ;-)

well (4, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046112)

I, for one, am starting to root for the asteroids.

Re:well (0)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046194)

I for one also welcome our intersteller overbearing meteor plummeting towards us overlords.

Re:well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046325)

please mod parent sig down

Re:well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046352)


What's that game called again? (3, Insightful)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046117)

There's a type of home game where you can spell things out in "leet" speak, or you get cards with strange letter and number cominations and you have to decipher the meaning. Anyone remember what it's called? That's what I think of when I see someone writing "R U Their".

I can't understand the vast numbers of kids and people my age even that write with such sheer illiteracy that it makes me think twice about talking to them. Should I really expect someone who asks "How RU", to understand me when I talk about solar flares, or which car gets the best milage? Sure there are bright people that have given in to pretending they're typing on a cell phone, but why would someone try to initiate communication with other english reading person, with a line like "Hey Jou wat u doin?

the best advice as always on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046118)

is found at every Slashdot discussion link's label: : Read more....

Cliff's Notes? (2, Insightful)

KrancHammer (416371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046129)

This won't affect literature any more than did those yellow-bound examples of conciseness.

Re:Cliff's Notes? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046260)

If you mean to say that Cliff's Notes did reduce literature, but that this will do no worse harm, then I agree. Literature, like other expressive art, is about form as much as function. Unfortunately, people who use the Cliff's Notes to pass a high school lit class are missing at least half the value of the work.

This has very real effects, one easily comes to mind -- why do you think we get subjected to all these crappy movies? Or rather, why do you think so many people are willing to spend so much money on them?

Re:Cliff's Notes? (1)

Deinhard (644412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046296)

Yes, but Cliff Notes are writting in a grammatically-correct language. (I would say "English" but I don't know if there are other versions of Cliff Notes.

Granted, I've been known to use CNs before (especially for Moby Dick), but at least those volumes explain the book. MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus says nothing for Jane Eyre.

How can copyright free works be made MORE accessib (1)

RapidEye (322253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046140)

literary masterpieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet more accessible

I didn't think it was possible to make copyright free, translated into a hundred languages, written on just about every type of paper ever made, litterature even MORE accessible.

Whats next - write it on Charmin and have it installed inside the stalls of every public school bathroom?

Re:How can copyright free works be made MORE acces (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046362)

I am intrigued by your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. How much is subscription ona per-roll basis?

How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046149)

From the summary: will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,'"
The plots cannot be taken out of context from the book they are presented in, for example here is the "plot" of animal farm:
Animals overthrow cruel/greedy humans to try to set up utopian society, true believers in the revolution pushed out, some use revolution for own goals, end up just like humans
Doesn't do the book much justice(not to mention doesn't contain one of the best sentences in all of English literature: "4 legs good, 2 legs bad"). You can't have anything but superficial discourse(make slashdot joke here) if all you are familiar with is a vague outline of the plot....

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046202)

" of the best sentences in all of English literature: '4 legs good, 2 legs bad'"

How about "All animals are equal, some are more equal than others?"

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046290)

Doesn't have quite the same bestiality connotations but.........

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (1)

flyinwhitey (928430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046357)

Sorry to say this, but that's the line. "4 legs..." isn't even close.

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (2, Insightful)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046251)

It's quite true that this will not do the book justice, but what you have to remember is that the aim of these this is to help kids who don't give a damn to pass tests.
/remembers reading Animal Farm in 9th grade //remembers the teacher saying it was BS and for me to STFU when I said the the book was an allegory for communism ///gave up on public school then and there

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046336)

Wow. Your teacher sure was an idiot. It's not like the allegory for communism was hidden or anything. It's the whole point of the book. I'd love to know what your teacher thought you were supposed to get out of the book besides that.

Re:How is "memorizing" plots helpful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046348)

I think you mean 4 legs good, 2 legs better. []

The sky is falling! (4, Insightful)

eison (56778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046154)

Don't we get warnings about this every decade for the last several centuries? Wasn't writing in the vernacular going to ruin writing back ever since writing was invented?

Then and now (1)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046224)

There's a crucial difference between then and now. Then, rapid communication was written -- as in, a letter or a phone call. I would guess that writers wrote to the best of their ability to get the point across, or at least spelled out words correctly. The culture of intentional "l337 sp43k" was most likely small.

On the other hand, kids now use this language more frequently - and it's leaking into school essays, assignments and homework. During my most recent teaching stint, kids simply replaced "you" with "u," perhaps by unconscious slip of the typing hand. So IMHO, there is a danger in not addressing and resolving this challenge.

Doesn't every frickin' generation go through this? (1)

ACK!! (10229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046158)

I mean it seems like I have been reading about the collapse of western civilization, literature and the death of all knowledge since I was a munchkin for goodness sakes.

Alarmist noise meant to freak people out or push a point of view.

I mean am I wrong or does this seem like just another re-hash of the old tv/computers/comic books/gore movies and porn will rot your brain noise?

Re:Doesn't every frickin' generation go through th (1)

freshman_a (136603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046316)

I mean am I wrong or does this seem like just another re-hash of the old tv/computers/comic books/gore movies and porn will rot your brain noise?

The day my comic books and porn start having things like "'lolz ur funny' she sed az a d00d sed a joke," then I'll agree. Last I checked, even Penthouse letters used proper grammar and spelling.

I'd rather have my kid learn from a properly written comic book than haX0r-speekish Shakespeare.

Re:Doesn't every frickin' generation go through th (2, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046322)

To some extent is is just an alarmist attack on progress. It's more efficient to write "How R U?" into a cell phone if the other person is familiar with the language. But previous generations have been right about culture loss from progress. How many people speak or read Latin today? 50 years ago there were thousands if not millions more who knew at least a little. Instead we knoew computer languages and "L337 Speak". [] the URL there wouldn't have made sense 10 years ago, now it does to some people.

With every little bit lost, we gain in another area. Old people don't want change because we have to leave behind stuff that works already, and learn on top of it too. Such is life though, so embrace your leet speaking underlords when possible so you don't get left too far behind ;-) When you're part of them, you can teach them the old ways of english, and dazzle them with complete sentences.

Plot, summary or more...? (1)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046159)

So the scary thing is that plot is emphasized as the important part of reading -- of literature. Is it? Let's consider that reading a book teaches us language, teaches us history and teaches us, above all, how to (or not to) think.

So when some e-book comes along that bows down to the quick-speak of IM counterculture, let's stop to ask ourselves just why the product is harmful. What is it that we want our population to learn through reading? Granted that not everyone is going to pick up Anna Karenna. But for those who pick up Great Gatsby, there's a hellova lot more to be gleaned from reading the book than knowing that "G4tz di3z."

LzyAssKdsNd2Lrn2Rd (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046161)


Not necessarily a bad thing (3, Informative)

squoozer (730327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046162)

While I am sure there will be plenty of purists out there that will be up in arms at this I think it might be quite a good thing. Anything that gets people interested in reading and expanding their mind has got to be good even if it means dumbing down some old masterpieces to get them interested. What concerns me about this, however, is their stated reason for doing it:

remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards

Surely remembering plots and quotes isn't why we get our students to read these works. Many modern works have plots that are just a involved, often more involved. Quotes are good if you're a bit dim and need to sound intelligent for 30 seconds but not a lot else.

As for their choice of material, well, I'm sure it will mostly be Shakespeare simce he's the only person most people seem to be able to name. That's a real shame because, personally, I don't enjoy reading Shakespeare. He wrote plays - plays are supposed to be watched. There are plenty of people who wrote books why not try promoting them instead?

Mr Hamlet (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046163)

Do I exist or don't I... Not sure ?
Is it good to suffer or is better to do something.
I am tierd .
I am sad.
I wonder what is about to happen
God it's noisy outside , I wonder if i will get bullied
Stop telling me what to do , I run my own life mum.
Wonder what else is out there .
if you are a Chicken , You suck!!!!
My girl friend dumped me , but I tell everyone she died .

Great works of literature often read and discussed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046167)

More often discussed then read.

What's wrong with a few cliff notes so we can join with the best of bar room pontificators. And some of these so-called classics are leaden and ponderous.

Wha... (1)

hardcorey (900374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046174)

This seems like an excellent use of technology. I don't think I'll have to attend english class ever again because I can learn all about rhetorical devices and reading great literary works on my cell phone. What would I do without you, Dot Mobile?

Translation or Memorization Trick? (1)

trepan (593758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046180)

While I have a negative knee-jerk reaction (is there a positive one?) to this sort of thing, if it helps a student remember an essential moment in a story it's hard to argue against it. I don't think it's plausible to suggest that this sort of 'translation' will supplant the original text, but works like Shakespeare often have to be worked through with a good teacher in order for students to understand them. Language (specifically English for this context) is not a static language: it's always growing. I'm hesitant to come out and say that text messages are constituting a new branch of language, but it's undeniable that "LOL" and "IANAL" are now part of the vernacular.

Re:Translation or Memorization Trick? (1)

Hrothgar The Great (36761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046337)

They are "part of the vernacular" only for informal discussions, and only in text. Try saying IANAL to someone and see how they react to that.

Abbreviations, shorthand, whatever - it establishes faster communication in instant messengers, and that is just great. It can stay there. Trying to condense literary passages where the author had plenty of time to write them down into this ridiculous SPEED LANGUAGE is insane.

Are teachers going to start accepting papers with LOL written in them? Shouldn't the student be able to demonstrate the humor in a situation, given enough time, without resorting to a shortcut that only belongs in necessarily fast paced conversations? Given a large amount of time for a project, is it acceptable to write down parts and pieces of words because some kids might be too lazy to write them out?

Modernized spelling (3, Insightful)

Mark Gordon (14545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046195)

Having seen First Folio spellings, I have to wonder how much controversy there was when Shakespeare first appeared in modern spelling. Consider the opening lines of "The Tempest":

    Master. Bote-swaine.

    Botes. Heere Master: What cheere?

    Mast. Good: Speake to th' Mariners: fall
too't, yarely, or we run our selues a ground,
bestirre, bestirre.

In more modern spelling this becomes:

    MASTER. Boatswain!
    BOATSWAIN. Here, master; what cheer?
    MASTER. Good! Speak to th' mariners; fall to't yarely, or
        we run ourselves aground; bestir, bestir.

Was this considered a radical watering-down, back in the day?

I've also considered what Shakespeare's plays would look like as IRC logs; I suspect such an approach would work at least as well as the blog version of Pepys' Diaries []

Re:Modernized spelling (2, Insightful)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046309)

As I understand it, the First Folio was a collection of notes taken by illegal transcribers at Shakespeare's plays, right? So it's sort of like the rough drafts of the people who write the TV and Movie transcripts without Closed Caption. The drafts were never seriously edited because they were always meant to be performed. Shakespeare would have desperately tried to avoid written copies of his works. He even went so far as to splitting up the scripts he gave to actors, and it wouldn't suprise me if he used shorthand to make it harder for anyone who stole a script. In fact, I think he even taught some of the actors their lines orally. And certainly any part that he played exclusively (the Ghost or Caesar) wouldn't have anything more than his originial full-play script (which he kept secret).

Basically, there was no copyright in his times, so anyone could copy his plays, and people frequently did. The lack of grammer or accurate spellings of the time does not suggest anything about the works themselves, just that the scripts were obtained mostly without his permission.

Rtcl2long... (1)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046199)

rtcl2long 2mny wrds brdnow lol cya

What? What do you mean that doesn't count as a real comment?


James Joyce Covered This (1)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046218)

How is this nonsense different than what Joyce did in Finnegans Wake [] .

Maybe the intent was different. Joyce said of Finnegans Wake, "It took me 17 years to write it. It can take you 17 years to read it."

Offensive (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046220)

We called them Clift Notes back in the day. Hey rent the movie and you get it in two hours or less. With the great works the story is secondary to the writing. Picking high notes in the great works renders them banal and pointless. Let's reduce Citizen Kane to "some rich ole dude croaks and his last words are the name of his sled he had as a kid, the end". Does it have the same impact?

His Sled! Thanks a lot... (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046328)

I watched the first half of CK last night and was going to finish it tonight. Now you've ruined it for me by giving away the ending. Damn you Belseth!

Feh "books" (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046230)

In my day we'd memorize everything as song or poetry. Books are dumbing down the next generation...

Disjointed tasks. (1)

Irvu (248207) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046243)

Literature, especially Shakespear is about the power and joy of words, the fun that can be communuicated by language, the stirring of a good speech. Shekespear especially was a playwright whose words were meant to be spoken aloud not read on the page. Milton was a poet whose words were meant to stir the hearts in their full flower. Text messages by contrast are meant to get the key factoid ("*sq 11pm") across in the minimum spanm of time. The two are different things.

While I am all for the remixing of culture let's not pretend that "woun2mnkd" is the same as "woe unto the people of the earth." It is not, and the very difference lies in the words themselves their rythm, cadence, etc. Past attempts to reset literature into the modern vernacular have succeeded or failed to the extent that they produce something worthwhile. Resetting the words to a new place say a Nazi-Era Richard III work. Replacing all the dialogue with vastly-reduced snippets out of context fails. It doesn't fail because it isn't the cannon, but because it doesn't stand on its own.

I strongly suspect that for all those who already like the works so transcribed these messages will seem interesting, or cute. For those who do not they will be as interesting as reading all of Shakespear silently without even an image of the stage in your mind, that is, boring.

Personally the quotes themselves, divorced of context, mean nothing.

Reading Romeo and Juliet? (3, Insightful)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046249)

I don't see why it is so important to read Romeo and Juliet and other plays. They are meant to be watched. The actors are supposed to play a major role in how the characters are precieved. Take the students to see the play performed or bring in the movie. What really made me think Shakespear was awesome, was the Romeo and Juliet movie with Leonardo Dicaprio.

If you are going to just bring in scripts for you class to read, why not It's A Wonderful Life or Star Wars? That is only half the experience, and one not meant to be thrust upon the audience.

Say no to CliffNotes (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046254)

I'm very much against the idea of "accessible" versions of literature. Often, you'll see authors using wordplay or the physical structure of words that can't be translated a la Lewis Carroll.

What is being lost here? (2, Interesting)

DThorne (21879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046256)

Hamlet, for examplem, is a story delivered by a writer that likely invented more new words and phrases that "stuck" with the language than any other single person, this particular play being a prime example. Is translating this story(and a translation is effectively what it is) to a particularly crude and simplistic laguage that is designed for brevity, sometimes comedy, and not much else some sort of crime? Well, no, not really, because you can translate it well, or poorly. Let's say it's poor(and it will be). This means you have a poorly translated classic. What will happen? No-one will read it, and those that do won't recommend it to their friends. This is no more relevant than a Coles Notes of Hamlet, or Reader's Digest Abridged. Last time I checked, Reader's Digest, sitting on a humble hamper in my mother's bathroom, hasn't brought about the end of civilization as we know it. It's introduced a story to someone who likely wouldn't have read it in it's original form.

What *is* bad is the lack of support for reading the original in general. Like video games and violence, I don't think cel-speak causes illiteracy. I think the illiterate are drawn to it.


Remembering plot points? That's how you teach?! (4, Insightful)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046281)

The point of Shakespeare and Dickens is not to memorize what happens. It's not history class. The Picture of Dorian Gray isn't a story about a portrait, it isn't a history lesson about what crazy stuff happened to some rich guy in the 19th century, it's a wonderful work of literature about a man and a time period.

Memorizing a few plot points and quotes from Faulkner does absolutely squat for learning anything whatsoever about these works of art. This isn't raising educational standards.

Turning Hamlet into a text message removes 100% of what makes it important. There's no point to it anymore at all.

"No Fear Shakespeare" (1)

Darth_Mehal (910244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046297)

A while back, I saw something in the local Barnes & Nobles called 'No Fear Shakespease' where an original play is "translated" for modern day nitwits to understand. Example passage (taken from SparkNotes site) To be, or not to be? That is the question-- Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep-- No more--and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to--'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! translates to.... The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping--that's all dying is--a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us--that's an achievement to wish for. *shudder* Never mind that the passage is castrated of any aesthetic value, the big problem in my mind is that challenging literature like Shakespeare should be, you know, challenging. Make some effort to actually read it instead of demanding that the great works of literature be dumbed down to your level.

Shakespeare sucks... Oh my god he sucks (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046298)

Good literature? Says who? Some stuffy academics? Some theatre luvvies? What on earth are they thinking...

Go read it yourself, make up your own mind. If you can get to the end... ALL ON YOUR OWN... and enjoy it then, maybe he doesn't suck very badly.

Otherwise... There's mountains of understandable, readable books, watchable plays out there. Leave Shakespeare in the grave he deserves to be in.


Teddy Rooselveldt tried this over 100 years ago... (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046302)

Seriously, his attempted standrard of "simplified spelling" is not that different than leet speak. He even had all official whitehouse communiques done in this method for a time. But someone pointed out his name would end up butchered and he dropped it.

Worshiping Literature (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046305)

I don't know about everyone else, but I really don't see most of these great works of literature as something to put on a pedelstal.

I mean there were developed as entertainment and phillosophical points of view, but they don't really have much to teach us other than the authors point of view and perhaps a perspective of the world they lived in.

Take Shakespear from example... I mean his works were specifically devolped to entertain an live audience of his era with comeday and tragedy and frankly the only reason we study him because he was most likely the only one to do it at his time.

Unless of course there were other play writers that just wrote heaping mounds of dog poo and English Parliment locked them up in the tower and burned their plays that we don't know about...

As far as works that people should read as something they should get value of... I'd recommend Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Dante, Friedrich Nietzsche, or some other off the wall phillosopher rather than these people who wrote for entertainment value.

Data versus Story (1)

blastard (816262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046318)

Dot mobile appears to believe that if students know the details of the story, it is almost as good as knowing the story.

If I tell you hops, yeast, water, and malt, does this mean you will enjoy beer? No. There needs to be context, nuances.

Storytelling is not merely the recitation of facts, it is the art of gaining the interest of the audience, making them feel something.

I hope this is more of a farce done for publicity than a serious effort to rewrite the literature of the world.

Blame the parents... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046321)

I think the blame should be placed squarely on the parents. If they're not reading and talking about books, their kids won't have the same passion. Some kids get lucky to have the book bug bite them early and commit themselves to reading at a young age without any influence from their parents. There's more to life than video games, computers and iPods.

No one in my family was a reader. But reading was my escape from being a fat, ugly teenager and my parents didn't discourage me when I spent my allowance on books. As a slimmer, ugly adult, I still read the newspaper websites every day, two books per week, and a dozen magazines per month.

Educational Standards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14046332)

"...raise up..."

Raise up?

They're going to improve educational standards? Educational standards indeed.

The real threat to civilization... (1)

5pp000 (873881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046339)

The real threat to civilization is this phrase "the lowest common denominator". It's right up there with "I could care less".

Some... (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046340)

Some would say that the reason these works are literary masterpieces is because of how the entire story is written, and comes together to transport the reader to another world...not just because of their plot summary and some choice quotes.

Remember Ebonics? (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046349)

'nuff said.

Mis4tunes 1 can Ndure, they cum from outside, (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046361)

"Misfortunes one can endure--they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one's own faults--ah!--there is the sting of life." by Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere's Fan

Translated to bastardspeak:
Mis4tunes 1 can Ndure, they cum from outside, they R axEdents. But 2 suffr 4 1's own falts, ah!, theris the stingo'life.

Oscar is spinning in La Pére Lachaise.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account